Hola, I’m Patricia from Spain.
Before arriving at Pestalozzi I studied for a degree in Educational Psychology and had been working as a teacher in Spain. I came to Pestalozzi to volunteer for ten months as part of the Erasmus + programme (specifically the European Voluntary Service), in August 2018.
My journey started more than a year ago when I was in Spain feeling that I should do something different, something that could fill my heart. I didn’t want to think about earning money or living in this busy-empty world of today. I wanted to experience new things and do something rewarding. So I decided to look for some volunteering opportunities. I found an amazing organization in Spain called AIPC-Pandora who assisted me on this journey until I found the Pestalozzi International Foundation. After finding out more about the charity, I felt that I could identify with their philosophy of "head, heart and hands”. My gut instinct told me that it was meant to be. The chance to work in a multicultural environment was something that appealed to me and would be a unique opportunity.
As a volunteer in the Student Programme Department, I assisted with different events: International Women’s Day; Interfaith Cultural events; Model United Nation (MUN) debates and Holi; trips to London, Oxford, Portsmouth and Camber Sands; and extracurricular activities such as dance, Christmas Carol concerts, movies nights, karaoke and Intercultural Dinners. I also ran weekly activities: Spanish lessons and study techniques. I believe that my position here was more like a role model/older sister for them, someone who they could trust, who supported them and tried to have fun with them. Pestalozzi encourages the students to make positive changes back in their home countries, and in the world. I like to tell them that "with positive energy and a big smile, we can change the world” and if we believe in the thing that we are doing, it can be very powerful.
I remember that the students were not yet here when I arrived, so I walked around the field connecting with the environment and feeling completely open to this new experience, but I didn’t know how much it was going to change my life. It was an adventure from the first day. I was trying to remember their difficult names, whilst at the same time trying so hard to understand them, which was impossible for me for the first month. I had to communicate with them through smiles, body language and foosball. I truly believe that fun is an international language. Thanks to their patience and help, we built a strong relationship. Now that it’s time for me to go back to Spain, I don’t think that I’m ready to say goodbye and I will tell them "see you soon” trusting that we will see each other again one day.
I have learnt many things here and not only at a professional level; I have also learnt how big the heart is and how much we can love when we are in the place where our heart wants to be. I feel that here, at Pestalozzi, I’ve found my second family: sisters and brothers from all over the world in a small village in East Sussex. It’s a magical place where, over two years, young people learn about hope and discover that life with fewer borders and layers shows us that we are all the same and that we are citizens of this world as a great family who must help each other more with the head, heart and hands.
I only have words of gratitude for this experience, to all the staff who welcomed me from the first day with open arms, to the students who taught me how to become a better person and to this place of peace and tranquillity that allowed me to reconnect with myself and find my way. I have, over the last 10 months, felt very much at home.
I leave as a free soul cultivating positive energy!
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